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Kasol, Kheerganga, Tosh – The Trail Journals

If you, too, wish to truly understand the meaning of numinous beauty and if you, too, believe in the magic of nature then read on, for this trip took me to places which can and which will unleash the wayfarer in you!

It’s time we Indians got over the overrated Shimla and headed out to the more beautiful places of Himachal! Shimla at one point, yes, was undeniably beautiful, but now all that remains of a once ‘Summer capital of India’ is commercialized streets with cramped houses and hotels.

Kasol, Tosh and Kheerganga had been on my list for almost two years and I’m so glad I could make it there in 2019, finally!!

I had been meaning to do Kalga and Pulga too, but hell, I’m going back there, so no regrets! 😊

This trip was part of the ‘TravelWithBanjara’ series that came second in line to the Meghalaya trip (which reminds me that I haven’t written about Meghalaya yet!)

How I went about it!

I chose some 15 of my followers to join me on this little escapade to the hills and we got Bummlers as our Travel partner. It costed us 14k all inclusive of transfers, stay and meals from and back to Delhi!

The people who joined me were all my followers and while some might find it weird, I find it absolutely normal and in fact a healthy way of meeting new people who share a similar passion for traveling and have stories to tell! 😊

While I got the people to join in on my trip, the logistics and bookings were taken care of by Bummlers. We had a traveler to ourselves for the trip that took us from Delhi to Kasol and then back to Delhi. The traffic sure did kill us and what would have normally taken 12-14 hours one way took us close to 18-19 hours because well, dilli ki garmi had everyone swarming to the hills and what better than Himachal that is home to over 15 hill stations!! Having said that, every moment outside of Delhi, and inside of HP was like looking into a painting which made the terribly long journey bearable!

ITINERARY

  • Day 1 – Overnight journey to Kasol from Delhi (520 km)
  • Day 2 – Reach Kasol in the morning, check into campsite(tents) by the River Parvati. Trek to Chalal Village
  • Day 3 – Drive to Barshaini from Kasol. Trek to Kheerganga (15km). Stay in Kheerganga camps
  • Day 4 – Trek down to Barshaini. Trek up/Drive up to Tosh village (5km). Stay in Tosh campsite
  • Day 5 – Trek down to Barshaini. Drive back to Delhi!

Best Time to Visit?

Himachal has a pleasant weather throughout the year. The best time to visit Kasol, Tosh and Kheerganga is from April until October since in winters the whole village is covered in snow and becomes quite hidden. However, if you want to enjoy the snow, you can opt for November to February.

What to carry on treks?

If you are reading this blog and you haven’t been on many or any treks before, and you plan to go on one sometime in your life, then this section will be useful for you! 😊

Nowadays most of us no longer live much closer to nature and are used to the obvious availability of certain things in life. Hence, it is very important to understand and appreciate that when you are hiking or trekking a mountain, some obvious things may not be around you when you find yourself in a tricky situation. Here’s my must-carry-items’ list:

  • Trekking Bag – You CANNOT carry a trolley bag on treks, guys, understand
  • Best Quality Hiking Shoes (some treks are okay with general sports shoes too, but make sure your shoes have good grip, especially in monsoon season)
  • Backpack / Rucksack (For some one-day treks when you don’t want to carry a whole donkey on your back :P)
  • Thermals – Top and Bottom (IT can get really cold in the hills! Keep some brandy handy too :P)
  • Moisturizer and Sunscree
  • UV Protected Sun Glasses
  • Good jacket to protect from cold
  • One Raincoat
  • Lightweight Towel
  • Torch/Flashlight
  • Toilet Paper (plenty, since when you stay in tents, washrooms are usually make-shift and only one per 30-40 people)
  • Wet-Tissues(plenty)
  • 3-4 Pair of socks
  • Dry Fruits, Chocolates and Energy bars (They keep you fueled for long spells of the trek where you do not have shops)
  • Water bottle (please refrain from using disposable plastic ones
  • Medicines: If you are under any medications, please carry enough to last for the whole trip
  • SENSE OF FUN AND GOOD HUMOR 😉 😀

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the actual trip and how it was! 😊

Kasol – Mini Israel

Imagine staying in tents put up right next to the serene Parvati river, waking up to the gushing sound of the river in full flow, sun shining through the trees and ricocheting off the rocks of the river making your skin glisten as you go and perch yourself on those rocks to enjoy the music that the river and the trees so melodiously deliver. Now add to it some music that other fellow travelers are playing on the guitar as they smoke you-know-what! What a different high, whoa!

On your trek to Chalal, expect to see many tourists especially from Israel, some of whom have settled in the nestling hills of the area.

We learnt a thing or two about how Kasol used to be a truly untouched remote area until 20 years back(this makes me sad for what we saw was already a pretty urbanized version of Village Kasol), how Cannabis cultivation and export is the only form of livelihood for the locals and how they worship deities from their folklore.

Kasol was all about cafes, the flowing river, bonfire and music for us 😊

Cafes to visit – Evergreen Café, Moondance Café

Kheerganga – Stairway to Heaven

Imagine vast green grasslands with little white flowers springing out of those grass beds, vast 3D mountains, where you could see green hillocks in the foreground, and endless silhouettes of gigantic hills in the background followed by snow capped mountains further beyond those green hills.

Can you imagine what a sun rising from among these hills or a sun setting into those hills would look like? No, you can’t. I can’t even begin to put it into words. MAGIC is what it can be best described as.

Don’t get me started on the moon in the hills, I might just drop a tear in the memory of its beauty!

The trek to Kheerganga encompasses everything- walking through rivers, waterfalls, holding on to dear life on narrow walkways, apple orchards – you name it. If you’re a regular hiker, then this one is a dream to do. One of the most beautiful treks, so picturesque that you feel an impulse to reach for your camera or pinch yourself hard to make sure it’s real. The amazing landscapes, waterfalls and the alpine meadows are bound to make you stop and feel it and soak it in! Trek from Barshaini to Kheer Ganga is 15km. Agreed that 15kms is a lot of climb but heaven awaits you at the end of it. All your tiredness will be washed away with a sight of the unending view of the glaciers and mystical hot springs of Kheerganga. 10 minutes into the pool and you’ll be tripping because of the Sulphur fumes. Do not be surprised if you hear Dholak and groups singing and beating some Shiv Natraj Music. It is a one of a kind experience!

At Kheerganga, we ate, ate and ate, witnessed the most beautiful sunrise and sunset, petted and became home to fluffy dogs, watched beautiful white horses graze the grass, took a dip in the hot water springs, sat on infinity swings, sat around bonfire singing and sipping on hot tea and slurping down hot Maggie, and engaged in the super intriguing stories of locals! 😊

I would have loved to extend a day at Kheerganga! Probably next time! 😊

Tosh – Save your HASHtags for later, coz brownies are here babbay!

5kms ahead of Barshaini, lies the charming village of Tosh. Tosh, the last village in Parvati valley, is well-hidden amongst tall pine forests and is located alongside the Parvati river. Alongside the village is the Tosh River, which begins at the Tosh Glacier.

Tosh is a preferred destination for lazy hippies. Unlike Kheer Ganga, Tosh is much populated and not surrounded by thick meadows. Trekking trail passes through ranches and unorganized plantation of Marijuana. Accommodation and food options are in surplus in Tosh and are in much better shape than what we find in Kheer Ganga. The tents we stayed in offered an excellent, mesmerizing view of the Parvati valley and we had nothing to complain about!

There is nothing much to do in Tosh than to explore the surroundings. With every step you take there will an upsurge in love for this place. Such breathtaking views it provides of the beautiful Parvati Valley. In addition, as Tosh is becoming quite popular among the backpackers, many trance and psychedelic parties are being organized here.

We trekked up further to reach Pink Floyd Café just in time to catch glimpses of the sun melting away behind the hills. We tried the much talked about ahem ahem, brownie there. Hah! Oh my! What an experience! Shall not forget it 😀

That was my trip for you guys! We headed back to barshaini and back to Delhi the next day with heavy hearts but with hope of returning sooner this time around! 😊

Hope this blog leaves you a little more enthused about planning a trip to the beauty that these places are! 😊

Do follow my updates on Instagram to be a part of the #TravelWithBanjara trips! Bali is up next! 😉

Till the next time then! Do drop in your questions, your comments, your feedback below and I’d be happy to address them!

Forever a Banjara,

Diksha | TwofoldChic

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OYO Townhouse – Jaipur

Hello everyone!
With the winter sun and chills driving in slowly but steadily, hope y’all are doing well!
As you all know that Diksha and I were recently invited by OYO rooms for an experiential stay. It was basically on the launch of their 51st Townhouse in Jaipur.
OYO Townhouse is a brand-new category of neighborhood hotels that combine experience and value at a scale that has never been attempted before in the Indian hospitality landscape. This offering is targeted at Millennials, for whom price, convenience and a differentiated experience play an important role in determining choices.
The 40-room hotel, located in the heart of the Jaipur city in Lalkothi boasts of unique, minimalistic design with spacious rooms and two banquets that can hold a gathering of 150-200 guests, respectively.
Here are a few pictures for your reference:

Townhouses are designed to function as social hotspots that cater to city dwellers and a new generation of guests. Besides outstation guests, residents staying in these areas can use the property as an alternative workplace, experience a vast array of global cuisines and access the lounge and retail store with exclusive merchandise.
Diksha has her heart set in Jaipur since she spent the most part of her childhood here, so she literally looks for excuses to drop in, while I, on the other hand, was born and brought up in this beautiful pink city – so for me to stay in a hotel in my own city and then exploring it like a tourist was a great experience!
We checked in the hotel around 11:30 and loved the color scheme of white, grey and red that was used in the entire property, minimal decor yet perfect.

We quickly got ready to leave for the city tour. We skipped breakfast as we were already full, thanks to my mother for feeding us with heavy aaloo paranthas (Indian moms I tell you!!). Anyway, there were 2 more bloggers along with us who came down from Delhi & we were basically the first ones to set foot in this new hotel.
We first headed to Nahargarh Fort which stands on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, overlooking the city of Jaipur. The fort was originally named Sudarshangarh but it became known as Nahargarh, which means ‘abode of tigers’. After exploring the place and clicking a few pictures, we decided to have lunch at “Once upon a time”, a restaurant inside the fort. I feel more than exploring the places, we were keen on picking the best dishes from the menu, foodies that we all were! Here we tried Keema Baati, Lal Maans, gatte ki sabzi (all Rajasthani specialties) along with spinach and paneer koftas and lassis!

Post lunch, we decided to explore a few more picture worthy points up there and then headed to another beautiful monument, Jaigarh Fort.

It was 4:30 and Diksha & I were pretty tired to even step foot out of the car so we decided to stay back & sleep inside while the others went to check the monument! They got back in half an hour or so and by then I guess everyone one was dead tired and needed a caffeine fix. We went to Home Cafe by Mr. Beans to relax for a while and sip some coffee & soup.

Then we went to our hotel to take a much-needed nap before we headed out for dinner. We slept like a baby for an hour and it was then a tough task to pull ourselves out of the super comfy bed but then we had to. I took it upon myself to be the in-house tour guide to make sure none of my favorite places were missed out by our travelers from other cities! We got ready and headed to Bar Palladio & Shikaar Bagh for dinner. The group was divided, few chose to sit at Bar Palladio because of the beautiful interiors & feel while I was at Shikaar bagh with my set of friends as it was Saturday night, Diksha being Diksha, decided to hop between the two & enjoyed best of both the worlds!

After dinner, we went to HOP for a while to experience Jaipur’s night life and finally got back to the hotel and called it a night!

The second day was also our last day at OYO. After a long night, we woke up so late that the group had to leave for the City Palace without us. We joined them directly for lunch at “Baradari” which is a beautiful restaurant inside City Palace where traditional craftsmanship meets contemporary design. A decidedly modern, glass-enclosed seating area that blends seamlessly with the old palace structures, the place was packed even during the day time with a lot of foreigners. We ordered some Lal maans with baati(again!!) with a side of Quinoa salad; a spaghetti aglio olio and We also ordered an array of lip-smacking desserts, the best of which was the rose petal jam icecream that was accompanied with some apple jalebis! We then headed back to our hotel, slept for a while, woke up & packed our bags and bade adieu to the friendly and humble staff at OYO Townhouse.

It was a great experience and we thank OYO for calling us. We will soon visit again as two days weren’t enough to explore the beautiful city of Jaipur.

To book the OYO Townhouse, and know more about the friendly neighborhood hotels, go to http://www.oyotownhouse.com/

Till we write about our next Travel experience,
Love,
TwofoldChic

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Festive ready with Craftsvilla!

I’m someone who often wears sarees with belts and jackets, dresses layered with shirts, boots with suits and what not; mainly because I love experimenting and creating new looks. However, this festive season, I wanted to do the regular – no twists and turns – a saree as a saree, a suit as a suit!

I got myself this eye-swinger, head-turner Anarkali from Craftsvilla and I have loved it since the moment it arrived! The soft silk fabric, the neutral classy tones, the gorgeous floral dupatta, the way it falls on my body and looks like it was tailored especially for me – all make for a combination that I look for in an outfit!

This Anarkali can be worn for Durga Puja, Diwali, Wedding functions and so on and so forth!

For the ethnic soul who like it chic and elegant, this is perfect for you if you have a lot of responsibilities at the wedding. It’s comfortable enough to move around in, and stylish enough to make a statement!

If you are a woman who isn’t shy of the limelight, the evergreen Anarkali is the obvious choice. Elegant and suave, this outfit is easily the star of the evening at any party.

I wore this with my rose gold metallic heels, tassel earrings in the same tone as the dress and some very basic makeup. I think it worked pretty well for me!

I hope you enjoy this look and create some supercool festive looks yourself! 😊 Also, do not forget to look up Craftsvilla for their amazing festive range!

 

Till the next time,

XX

Diksha | TwofoldChic

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Nagaland – A Dollop of halcyon bliss

If you are someone who loves the rhythmic rain and vibrant green forest and wet lands then the valley of flowers is for you. The cotton-like clouds that surround the valley as you reach the top make this untouched seductress a valley much like heaven on earth.

26 years of existence seemed futile after I did my first proper trek last month. I felt so sorry for myself for not having done it earlier. Dzukou Valley trek marks the first of many more treks to come in my life!

While Shivani has trekked in the Himachal, I was oblivious of the incredible world of trekking and hiking. Now, when I’m asked what I like better- Mountains or beach – I do not know, and perhaps, never will. Both have a charm so different that it’s unfair to even ask to pick one! Coming back to the trek – let me share how we made it possible. PHOI came up with this Nagaland package right when I had planned my vacation. It was destined to happen. I decided that I’d cut short my stay at home by a week and accommodate this trip. And so, it began. As you may have guessed, it doesn’t take long to convince Shivani, after all, birds of the same feather flock together!!

PHOI teamed up with ChaloHoppo, who are a bunch of enthusiastic young folks determined to bridge the gap between the people of the world and Northeast India.

Indians, unfortunately, are most tempted to travel to Europe and South Africa and the US before they’ve even seen all of India. While there’s nothing wrong about it, they do not realize what beauty and thrills they are missing out on in their very own country. The thrills and the panorama that they seek abroad can very well be found in India! There is so much more to India that the regular tourist trails and which is why I’m even writing this blog!

North East India has a culture and heritage so different, you will want to immerse yourself in the stories of their people and want to learn all you possibly can about their history! Nagaland is not about historical sites as much as it is about their culture. North east is brimming with exotic hills and waterfalls and natural springs and rivers and valleys! You can’t just get enough of all the natural beauty! Shivani and I had never traveled to that side of India before and hence, we pounced upon the first opportunity that came our way. An opportunity to visit a land of rugged hills and tribes where ancient headhunting habits have collided in a train wreck against the Burmese identity, leaving modernity derailed.

A 4-day trip to Nagaland which included Kohima, Jakhama Village and Dzukou Valley.

For INR 7800 (ex flights) it seemed like a pretty fair deal, add to it the excitement of meeting new people, 40 of them! All of us took flights from our respective cities to Guwahati (a cheaper option. Alternative is to fly to Dimapur directly). We all assembled in Guwahati and embarked on our trip, that started with an overnight train journey to Dimapur. Our trip officially began on the morning of 14th June where we were greeted by the rain gods as soon as we stepped foot into Dimapur. It was surprisingly pleasant. We had a hearty breakfast near the railway station and scrambled in our sumos to get to Kohima, a mere 80kms away, but easily a 4 hours’ drive!

Once at the capital city Kohima, the tourists in us had taken form and we went about visiting the War Memorial – Kohima is steeped in history; one had vaguely remembered that the Japanese had tried to enter India through northeast during the WW-II, but we realized that the action took place right in the centre of Kohima town only after visiting the War Cemetery. All the soldiers of Indian Army who laid their lives defending Indian soil are remembered here, some of them as young as 17! We also visited the churches, the local markets et al. The local markets were full of men and women selling what is considered as exotic food up there – silk worms, snails, frogs, and even dogmeat! In a word, anything that could crawl, hop or walk seemed to have fulfilled the pallets of the local people.

I wasn’t too excited by the idea of eating these delicacies, but some of the people in our group did, and they sure loved it! I, however, stuck to the usual – chicken and pork – Shivani, mostly vegetarian options!

A little about Nagaland here – This enchanting state with natural beauty and ethnic diversity is populated by the Naga people of Mongoloid stock.  There are 16 major Naga tribes in this state, each having its own language and unique customs and traditions. The Nagas have always been brave warriors. Although most of them have now become Christians (90% of the state population is Christian), they still preserve the remnants of their early animist culture and ancient traditions. Baptists constitute more than 75% of the Christian population. Nagaland is known as “the only predominantly Baptist state in the world.

We loved how stylish people are in Nagaland. You will find people clad in the most fashionable clothes and shoes even in the local markets. We had the opportunity of seeing a fleet of beautifully dressed people who were headed to a day wedding. Once we were done with lunch and sight-seeing, we then headed to our camp in Jakhama Village. The camp was beautiful and we stayed in a tent after ages! The camp had tents everywhere, a very cozy common area where we would all eat, sing, dance, play… We spent the rest of the night around the intimacy of the fireplace in the common area, moonlight over our heads, dancing to the tunes played out by our talented fellow travelers on guitar.

The next morning, our trek was to begin. Our tents overlooked beautiful, lush green paddy fields and waking up to clear blue skies, little drops of rain and lush greenery around is the most beautiful feeling ever!

We were all up and excited by as early as 5 am. We huddled in our sumos to go to Viswema, the starting point of the trek. A note to be made here, since we were going to be trekking for hours, we had already bought food supplies that would last us through the trek. Nuts and biscuits and bananas are good options!

A raincoat is a mustttttttttttt! Cannot emphasize enough on its importance.

So, yes, after a 45 minutes’ drive on a steep road, we reached the base of Viswema trek. From then on, it was a steep climb of about an hour followed by 6kms of walking on along a plain surface lined with small bamboo plants in a circular path. The initial walk is through a thick forest with giant rhododendrons trees and the 6kms walk gives passing views of the narrow Dzukou stream and glimpses of what the valley promises. The trek is a moderate one but was slightly more difficult than moderate ones because of the rains and mud that had accumulated because of the incessant rains. Lots of people kept slipping into the mud, the bamboo shoots would always come to our rescue. The trek took about 6-7 hours to complete and once we had arrived, the views are something I will never forget in my life!

   

The picture-perfect Dzukou Valley is located at an altitude of more than 2000. Only lush green mountains for as far as the naked eye can see!

The waterfalls that we encountered on our way stole my heart. I would have totally bathed in the river too had it not been chilly, but I made sure to plonk my face in the rivers and waterfalls that we crossed and drink water from them directly! Little pleasures of life! 😊

On reaching the top of the valley, we reached our dormitory where we were to stay the night. There was no electricity at this place and we cooked our cuppa noodles on woodfire and had that for two of our meals! The other meal that we had was also simple cooked lemon rice. Once we had rested a bit, we went on to see the valley of flowers of the north east which was another trek, not half as long as the trek it took us to reach up there. Walking through the Dzukou Valley – with beautiful plains with lush greenery and the loveliest flowers growing on them, passing over the brisk passing streams of crystal clear water, getting lost in the melodies of the cooing birds, surrounded by thick forests – for tourists, it’s one of the best experiences that they are ever likely to have. The calmness, the complete silence, the serenity of the surroundings is a complete change from the noise, the hustle and bustle of an average Indian city….

The temperature dropped majorly as night came and the chills literally rattled our bones. We all were carrying our sleeping bags and were given one thin quilt each but it was just not enough!

The next day, we had our breakfasts and began the climb down to Viswema again. It had been raining through the night and we were very worried about trekking down because of the slippery mud, but it was easier than we had thought. It took us some 5 hours and we were back to the base from where we headed back to our camps in Jakhama Village. That night ended on a blurred note after one too many cups of rice wine and rice shots 😀

The next morning, we set out to explore the village – it’s beautiful churches, the vivid and bright painted houses- Most of which still have the buffalo horns and skulls before their houses, the memorials, the stream and the paddy fields. The village walk was beautiful! The locals were very nice and greeted us all with a lot of warmth and smiles. We learnt a lot about Nagas – who were called head-hunters as they hunted for skulls which they hung in their homes or on trees. The larger the number of skulls one owned, the higher would be his status in society. Later, the custom was limited to animal skulls.

We interacted with the locals and ate plums plucked fresh from the trees. It was a beautiful clear day. Life seemed to be simple, peaceful and happy there. With smiles on our faces and warmth in our heart, we returned to our camp where we packed our bags and bid goodbyes to friends made over the past few days.

The trip was coming to an end. With heavy hearts, we set back to Dimapur, from where we again took a train to Guwahati. It might have been a short 4-day trip, but the memories made will last a lifetime – even if it sounds like a cliché, it is true!

And well, we surely will visit Nagaland again hornbill festival, that’s a given!!

And oh, the other six sisters are yet to be explored…Such a short life and so many places to see! 😊

Even thinking about it gives me an adrenaline rush!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip. I hope you guys plan a trip to the mystical lush lands of Nagaland soon enough. If you do, do hit up @chalohoppo. They’re your go to guys for exploring the north east!

 

Till then,

Love galore,

Twofoldchic

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Lebua Lucknow – A Heritage Hotel

A visit to the beautiful Lebua Hotel brought us to the city of Nawabs and Kebabs. What’s not to love about Lucknow? The rich heritage that goes back to pre-British era is one of its kind. The city has especially garnered attention for its exemplary adab and tehzeeb, along with its impeccable, scrumptious food! Many people visit Lucknow only to taste the kebabs of Tunday kebabi, the chicken masala of Dastarkhwan and the Awadhi biryani of Idris Biryani. Food aside, the Chikankari work of Lucknow is known to be the best in all of India.

But let’s leave all the food and shopping talk for a later time, and talk about the heritage hotel Shivani and I stayed in while in Lucknow. My first time in the city of Nawabs and kebabs, I felt as if I was in the beautiful Lucknow of the 20th century, such was the portrayal at Lebua.

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Lebua Lucknow is a Luxury Boutique property, located in central Lucknow and conceptualized as a sprawling traditional bungalow with a huge lush green lawn. It reflects and personifies the “Art Deco” architecture prevailing in the early 1900’s. Built in 1936, the haveli that is now the hotel was once home to a prosperous Lucknowi family. When time and tidings took the clan out of the city, the haveli fell into disuse. A few years ago, Lucknow-born expat Mohammed Abdullah and his interior decorator wife Nayab Bakshi bought the property and gave it a second life.

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The very minute we stepped foot in Lucknow, we were treated like royalty. A chauffeur driven pretty, yellow and white ambassador was sent to pick us up. We reached the resort to see a beautifully designed heritage property nestled between towering trees with bright flowers in full bloom. It was such a gorgeous first impression, and it only got better from there! Every nook and corner of the property exudes class. The long corridors lit with lamps, the wooden murals holding them mirrors and tinted glasses adorning the walls, the beautiful pink bougainvillea and orange flowers creeping up the walls make for the perfect rustic arrangement! With embroidered upholstery, vintage furniture and artwork on the walls, the rooms take you to a bygone Era where upon entrance you forget your 9 to 5 jobs and enter a world where you’re the queen, and Lebua staff leaves no stone unturned in treating you like one.

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Once we had had our tour of the property, we got in our rooms to find a rose petal bath awaiting us. Such Nawab like treatment I tell you! Shivani had a tough time getting out of it, this, I can tell you. She could’ve slept there in the rose petals all night if I let her! 😛

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Our suite was 201 – gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!
It opened up to a huge white balcony with bougainvillea here, there and everywhereeeee and we absolutely loved every bit of it.
More than the beautiful property itself, we were enchanted by how well the Lebua staff takes care of its guests!
To make sure their guests have an experience of a lifetime, they pay attention to the littlest of details and personalization, and it’s highly impressive. Our rooms had photo frames with our pictures in it and with personal hand-written notes for each of us. It melted us!

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Coming to the food, we had the honor of trying the exquisite lakhnawi food by their extremely talented head chef. We had excellent kebabs and awadhi biryani.. The mewe and mawa ke kebabs deserve a special mention in the veg section!
Their Italian restaurant, 1936, is every bit as special as the other in-house restaurants. I am not a big fan of Italian food but their homemade pasta again deserves a special mention. We had it thrice in our three days stay there!! It was that good!

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The Resort houses 4 dining experiences – Multi-cuisine, Italian, and traditional Indian fare, each one better than the previous. The first night of our stay there, a special candlelit dinner was arranged for the two of us in their beautiful gardens. It was accompanied with candles, flowers and butler service. The chef personally served his best delicacies to us and we can easily call it the best dinner in a long, long time!

Our stay there was full of amazing food, exemplary service and gorgeous views. We sat in our balcony for the sunrises and the courtyard for sunsets! We even got to witness an amazing wedding which was being held at the resort. Such a beautiful experience that was, being able to be a part of someone’s happy moments, and in a place like Lebua!

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Visionary CEO Deepak Ohri of lebua Hotels and Resorts was recently asked at The Columbian Business School conference about his vision for lebua as a brand.

According to Deepak, a strong emotional connect with their guests is the key metrics that drives and leads his vision. He percieves and develops concepts based on Fashion.
Faisal Nafees – General Manager India Operations, lebua group along with his team ensures that every guest experience at lebua meets Brand’s vision.

Shivani and I, as Fashion and Lifestyle bloggers instantly connected with the warmth and style. We experienced it throughout our stay right from our entry into the property until the last day of our stay!

It is a true kudos to lebua hotel standards for an exemplary experience led by a fashionista’s vision that shall stay with us forever.

If I ever get to visit Lucknow again, I would definitely go back to Lebua without any second thoughts!

Also, for all you people who do not have Lucknow on your radar, Lebua properties are there in Jaipur, Amer and even Bangkok and Newzealand! Also, there’s a brand new one opening in the lush forests of Corbett!

If there’s anything else, you’d like to know, please feel free to drop your questions in the comments section and we’ll make sure to answer them! 😊

Some more pictures of us at the property cos we couldn’t help ourselves 🙂

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Love and cheers,

TwofoldChic

Posted in backpackers, Beautiful India, beautifulhotels, beautifulindia, blog, blogger, boutiqueresorts, bucketlist, discoverearth, discoverer, exploringtheglobe, Fashion, fashionblogger, fashiongram, girlslovetravel, globetrotter, hotelsofindia, incredibleindia, indianblogger, indiandressing, influencer, insidertravel, lookbook, luxurystay, luxurytravel, ootd, resorrtsofindia, staycation, tourism, tourtheplanet, Travel, travelawesome, travelblogger, travelcommunity, traveldeeper, travelinfluencer, traveltips, traveltribe, tripoto, Uncategorized, Uncategorized, wanderlust

Mihirgarh – A palace of dreams!

Have you ever stayed in a place so beautiful where you found it hard to distinguish between dreams and reality?

We did, and very recently so.

If the thought of waking up to a beautiful sunrise in your private terrace, with your feet dipped in your private Jacuzzi, with the view of an endless desert with black bucks and peacocks prancing around, and bougainvillea dancing to the music of the desert winds stirs anything in you, then you know Mihirgarh is for you!

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Sunrise by the jacuzzi overlooking the desert

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Mihirgarh Fort, once a dream conceived and nurtured beautifully by Siddharth and Rashmi Rohet, now stands tall and beautiful in the middle of the Thar Desert as if the desert winds and sands sculpted its very towers themselves. ‘The Fort of the Sun’ is every bit an architect’s delight and a traveller’s paradise. Every inch of the palace exudes luxury and uniqueness.

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Mihirgarh Palace in all its glory

Shivani and I visited Mihirgarh at a fairly pleasant time of the year, January, so the desert was very welcoming! Every minute since we stepped foot into the beautiful sand castle was spent soaking in the lap of luxury. The fortress boasts of nine suites, each one bigger than 1700 square feet and splendid in its own way. The suites are named Alishan and Shandar – the names come from the fine Marwari Stallions from the Rohet Stables, and at this point it would be wise to tell you all that they have the absolute best collection of Marwari horses in India, whom we got to meet later at Rohetgarh. Such handsome horses, we were crushing on them!

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My rendezvous with Sharang

Back to the property, each of these suites treasure private Jacuzzis, plunge pools, private terraces and exquisite private courtyards. They are built aesthetically with so much precision, that you can see the Rohet family’s ethereal taste in the smallest of details. For instance, their love for horses comes to life in intricate designs of the lamps and even curtain holders and door knobs.

The aesthetics are classy and subtle, with white and beige forming the basics everywhere – rich in its own way without going bold with the colors, it leaves a soothing impact on you! The majestic mud painted walls, infinity pool overlooking the desert landscape, intricately carved designs in and out, and delectable cuisines to choose from weave such a beautiful picture, it’s hard to resist going there.

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Entrance to our private suite

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Infinity Pool!

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The Fountain Garden

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Our private Jacuzzi

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Our private courtyard

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The rooms look traditional and modern at the same time. Each room has TVs, coffee stations and mini bars to suit your requirements, while the fireplace and high wooden beds and décor give you a time-honoured traditional touch.With only nine suites, you can rest assured that privacy is of utmost importance here so you can enjoy the company of your partner or your family here. Hospitality is top notch – Smiling turban clad jodhpuri staff make sure that if you want something and you get it.The common areas are as grand as regal as the suites, with peacocks painted on one wall and color coordinated cushions making for an ornate pool lounge. High Tea in the fountain garden is extraordinary- orange and pink flowers lavishly adorning the walls around, birds chirping by and the water fountain are the only sounds to be heard. Dinner by the infinity pool is as beautiful as you see the horses running around while the sun gently sinks in.

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Sunset by the pool.

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The Pool Lounge

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And if that wasn’t enough, the boutique hotel offers a range of signature experiences, each better than the one before. The Rohet family takes immense pride in their history and culture and make sure that their guests get the real taste of Rajasthan, while staying at any of their properties. The experiences are carefully handpicked and created to leave a lasting impression of the flavors of Rajasthan on the guest’s mind and heart.

We got to experience two of their many signature experiences, namely, Shikar Dinner and Village Safari.

Shikar Dinner

As the clock struck 7, we got a call saying that our ride for the Shikar dinner was ready. Little did we know what lay ahead of us. We came out to see a camel cart with beautiful bedding and cushions waiting for us. We got in it, lay down and started our ride towards the era where hunting was a major sport and was celebrated with a good dinner and folk music in the wide expanse of the desert under the stars.

The ride was the best part of the trip. Living in polluted cities, I had forgotten what it felt like to just lie down under the canopy of the stars in complete darkness and enjoy that, just that moment. We rode on and on, a quiet night with only the sound of the camel hooves, spotting constellations over our heads, with the only other light present coming from a lantern. Writing about it makes me want to go back NOW!

We reached the desert where the dinner was hosted. A beautiful bonfire sparked in the centre, around which sat plump seating arrangements for us on one side, and on the other, folk musicians and dancers. We were treated to some amazing barbeque dinner and wine which was only highlighted by the Rajasthani folk music and dance and the august company of the other guests with whom the conversation flowed easily! We even danced along with the dancers and learnt some ghoomar from them!

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Village Safari

The Rohet family firmly believes that the people make a place what it is, which is why to give you a feel of the real, rural rajasthan, they take you on a village safari where you can see what life is for people out there, visit their homes, interact with them. The people are so warm and welcoming that it makes for a beautiful, beautiful experience.

We visited the Bishnoi village in an open jeep, and with the desert winds getting caught in our hair, the black bucks running along our jeep, we knew we were experiencing the raw Rajasthan! We learnt that Bishnois are considered as the first environmentalists of India. They live in mud houses which are caked with cow dung to make them cooler during the summers. Till date, they live without electricity, and with pride. They make papads and other stuff for a living.

The Bishnoi women are beautiful in their Rajasthani poshaks. They wear beautiful antique jewelry, one of the noticeable ones among them is the moon shaped nose ring that they wear upon getting married. The size varies depending on how long one has been married, so the eldest ones would have real big nose rings. It’s a family tradition they have been living by till date. The bishnoi men are warm and always up for a good conversation.

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The eldest member of the Bishnoi clan there

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While enjoying the gusty winds in the safari ride

Opium Ceremony

On our way back from the Bishnoi village, we also visited another village where we got to witness the Opium ceremony. Extremely fascinating I must say! We entered a beautiful old house with blue walls where several men sat down with their big colourful turbans and beedis and introduced us to opium, which is otherwise banned in India, but is a daily ritual in western parts of Rajasthan. It has many medicinal properties. The opium ceremony is performed by the elderly men of the household who grind the dried opium, mix it with some water and then strain and filter it through a funnel. What’s interesting is the way it is consumed. The right way to consume it is not from a spoon or glass, but from another person’s cupped hand, thrice.

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Men who perform the Opium ceremony

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It was an enriching experience and we enjoyed every bit of it!

Few of their other signature experiences constitute of Bird watching, Royal picnic and culinary workshops. I hope to enjoy those in my next visit, which is not far, I can sense it!

Staying at Mihirgarh is definitely an experience one cannot afford to miss. If my word isn’t enough, maybe going through the list of awards they have received will change your mind!

It has been called ‘The world’s most extraordinary hotel’ by Lonely Planet. Some other noteable awards conferred on Mihirgarh are ‘The world’s best boutique hotel’ and ‘The world’s best romantic hotel’ by World Boutique Awards; ‘World’s Most Extraordinary Luxury Destination’ and ‘Best Hideaway Hotel Southwest Asia’ by World Luxury Awards. They have won some more awards by Tripadvisor and Tattler. 

We had the privilege of staying at another one of their properties, Rohetgarh, which is the Rohet family’s ancestral home, and now, also a heritage hotel, one of the finest in India!

Our suite at Rohetgarh, was a duplex, with beautiful wall paintings, and the best part was the balcony which opened up to the view of the Lake, on the banks of which the property is situated. Sprawling lawns and manicured gardens, which invite a multitude of birds and dancing peacocks, herald your entry into this oasis where the bird song is the only sound you will hear. A superb swimming pool with four charming pavilions entices you for a refreshing dip. Dinners hosted here are often accompanied with an enchanting musical night which will have you clapping, tapping your feet, and ultimately dancing!

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A part of our duplex suite at Rohetgarh

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Lounge area of our suite on the first floor which opened to a huge balcony overlooking the lake

We also learnt that we weren’t the only ones finding the tranquility of the property beyond compare. The peace and tranquility of the environs have drawn writers from around the world. Rohet Garh has had the honour of hosting some of the most respected names in the literary world. Bruce Chatwin and William Dalrymple practically lived at Rohet Garh for four to five months working on their respective books, The Song-lines and The City of Djinns.

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The beautiful pool

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Temple bang opposite Rohetgarh

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When Shivani met Sharang

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Morning scenes in the courtyard of RohetgarhBar3

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Our source of entertainment for the evenings!

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Dinner with musical night at Rohetgarh

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Just making use of some beautiful nooks and corners of the grand palace!

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This trip to Mihirgarh and Rohetgarh was every bit as royal as it seems to be in this article, or maybe even more. We would recommend it to every single soul in the world reading this! It’s not just the place, but the people and the experiences that make it such an unforgettable memory.

The pictures do no justice to the real beauty of the properties. You have to see it to believe it.

Hoping we inspire some of you to take this trip that you know in your hearts you want to do!

Cheers,

TwofoldChic

Posted in backpackers, beach, beachbum, beachlife, beachplease, Beautiful India, beautifulindia, blogger, bucketlist, discoverearth, discoverer, exploringtheglobe, Fashion, fashionblogger, fashioninspiration, Food, girlslovetravel, globetrotter, incredibleindia, indianblogger, influencer, insidertravel, ootd, srilanka, tourism, tourtheplanet, Travel, travelawesome, travelblogger, travelcommunity, traveldeeper, travelinfluencer, travelmemoirs, traveltips, traveltribe, tripoto, visualtraveller, wanderlust

Sri Lanka – Calling out to the Beach bums!

This post is just an extension to my previous post on my first trip of 2018 – to Sri Lanka, and in this one I’m calling out to all the beach buffs out there.
In this post I will be talking about the last three days(the best ones) of my week long trip.
But first things first. A lot of people asked me about the trip expenses, so I’ll try and break it down here.
The return tickets cost 15k per person from and to Delhi. It can be as low as 6-9k if you take a flight from Bangalore or Kochi or even Chennai,
and if you plan it well in advance.
The Visas can be applied for online and cost 20 dollars each. You receive the visa within two hours of application, so it’s no hassle at all.
Our first stay, Oreeka – in Negombo, was booked through Airbnb and cost us around 17k per night for 4 rooms. The next stay Amagi Aria was booked through Booking.com and cost us 35k for 2 nights and 3 rooms. Our third stay was in Koggala, right by the beach.
We booked it through Airbnb again and it cost us 15k for 3 rooms and 2 nights. Damn cheap, right?
So this was about that stay and the travel, the major costs. This apart, we booked cabs for our commute everyday, which cost us around 40k LKR for those 6 days.
For anyone planning to visit, get your INR converted to dollars and you’ll get a brilliant rate at the Colombo airport.
Food ranges from place to place so it really depends on your choice of place.

Now that we’re done with the numbers, lets get to the fun part.
On the 4th, we headed out to Koggala, a good 4-5 hours long drive from Negombo. The resort called South beach resort had a private beach opening and was a fairly new place. For people traveling with friends, this place would be ideal. They offer rooms with 7-8 single beds so all of you can stay together in case you have any FOMO 😛
Even though it wasn’t a luxury resort per se, I enjoyed every minute there. The staff made us feel at home and what could be better than waking up
to the sound of waves lashing out at the shore, and the sun rising right over those waves, right outside your window!!

 

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Beautiful paintings adorning the walls of the Resort

 

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My spirit animal is a flamingo 😀

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Yoga in my heart, yoga on my mind

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With my soul sister!

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Dancing, anyone?

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Private beach overlooking the South Beach Resort

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If you’re a beach bum like I am, you’d know that the secret to happiness lies in the sea. Be it a dive in the mighty waves of the master, or a walk along the ocean at sunset, or maybe yoga at sunrise on that huge rock in the sea, or it could just be in sunbathing or creating rock castles at the beach.
Whether you’re a die-hard swimmer, a veteran shell collector, a serious sunbather, or simply like to sit under an umbrella and read a book, there’s nothing like a day at the ocean, because true beach lovers know that sand in the shoes (or pants!) is the mark of a day well spent.

Beach life is the best life. Period.

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Also what amazes me most about the sea is how a beach looks different everyday. It’s never the same, thanks to the ever-changing pull of wind and tides.
You could live there 365 days a year and still not get used to its pattern!

We spent the next three days in absolute peace and calm. We started with breakfast by the sea and ended it with dinner and a long walk by the sea.
The first day we spent at the beach overlooking our resort, just chilling, alternating between dips in the sea and dips in the pool. Guess who slept like a
baby that night? And oh, did I forget to mention how much I love what the beach does to my hair?
There’s some unknown elixir in the sea salt and the sun that my hair just becomes way softer.
The curls become more defined and the lustre, oh, the lustre is almost enviable!

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Reality might be hinting towards Silk Smitha, but atleast in my head I am a Kingfisher model 😛

The next day we headed out to Hikkaduwa Beach which is best known for its
clear blue waters and water sports! I was really looking forward to Scuba diving, but the sea was damn rough that day, to my utter dismay, and so, most people advised against it. So I tried Surfing. Boy is it tough or what!! I loved it. It’s exhausting, sure, but what fun!
To get the perfect timing and balance over those waves is tougher than you would’ve thought!
I’m definitely going to do surfing more often, and try and get better at it. We spent the whole day dipping ourselves in the sea, swimming and surfing, drinking beer and eating pineapple! It was just how I would describe a perfect day in my life – With the family at the beach 🙂

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They are the best!!

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We’re a family of giants, what can I say!

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Sunset at the Hikkaduwa beach

IMG_20180128_155729_693.jpgOn the last day of our trip we headed out to Galle. Galle, the capital of Southern Province of Sri Lanka, is a city you must not miss if you are a fan of good architecture. The whole city has Dutch and Portuguese inspired architecture, and a mix of beautiful colours, with white forts and houses of colonial times taking the lead.

It’s funny how being a part of a tropical Asian country, the city gave us major European feels. Everything about the place- the forts, the colours, the vibe – was European!
Galle’s biggest attraction is the 16th century Dutch fort surrounding the city. Unbelievably, the fort protected Galle from the tsunami in 2004.
While surrounding areas like Unawatuna were ravaged by the tsunami, Galle escaped with only minor damage.
You need no more than half a day here to wander around the old churches, colonial buildings, museums and walk the ramparts admiring the views out to sea.
Places to visit in the city are the Galle Fort, the Galle Lighthouse and the beautiful churches and Buddhist temples around the old town!
We roamed about the markets of Galle which had some beautiful but expensive stuff. From paintings to handicrafts, from silk to gems, from postcards to souvenirs,
you can find them all here!

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Buddhist temple in Galle

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Galle Lighthouse

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Beautiful Colonial Houses

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Cycling around the city

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Just how beautiful is this!

Galle is still super fresh in my memory. For all Indians, it has a very Pondicherry feel to it, if you know what I mean. I would love to go back there!
This summed up our last day in Sri Lanka, after which we headed back to Colombo and got on our planes back to the harsh reality of jobs and bills.

Some other things that I loved about Sri Lanka and missed in my last post:

  • I love how religiously diverse this place is and how the people co-exist peacefully. With Buddhists taking the maximum population, followed by Hindus,
    and then lots of Muslims and Catholics too!
  • The different vibes that each city holds. Galle with European feels, Colombo with Indian vibes, and so on and so forth
  • Tea. I brought back home Vanilla tea, peach tea and a lot of other flavours and I am in LOVE with them
  • The rich Heritage. Sri Lanka has some six archaeological World Heritage Sites – Galle fort being one of them, and they’re all wonderful!

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I will definitely plan another trip to Sri Lanka. A solo one this time maybe. Or with a group of friends.
I hope to cover the National parks and the rich heritage sites that I missed this time, mostly up north. The Whale and Dolphin watching tour in Mirissa.
The train ride from Kandy to Nuwara eliya and trekking to the world’s end once up there. Go check out the Rawanaella falls and other mighty falls that the
country beholds.
Writing this makes me want to go back there even more.
Hoping it fires a desire in your hearts to travel to Sri Lanka too! 🙂
If you do, I’d love to hear all about it!

Till the next time then,
Love galore,
TwofoldChic

 

Posted in backpackers, blog, blogger, bucketlist, discoverearth, discoverer, exploringtheglobe, Fashion, fashionblogger, fashioninspiration, Food, girlslovetravel, globetrotter, indianblogger, influencer, insidertravel, ootd, tourism, tourtheplanet, Travel, travelawesome, travelblogger, travelcommunity, traveldeeper, travelinfluencer, travelmemoirs, traveltips, traveltribe, tripoto, visualtraveller, wanderlust

Sri Lanka – the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

New Year. New Resolutions. New Travel Plans.

Every year, my family and I go to Goa first week of January. This year we decided we wanted to take a break from Goa, and explore a new place, or a new Country even. Beach bums that we are, it was a prerequisite that the place have beaches in plenty! Sri Lanka wasn’t even on my mental list of places to be covered, but thanks to the sudden hike in flight prices for Bali, we settled for Sri Lanka. I’m thankful for that because, otherwise, I never would’ve visited this beautiful jewel-shaped country!

I scribbled multiple itineraries, scourged the internet for suggestions, booked the flights and then, just like that, our first trip for 2018 was planned!

To cover all of Sri Lanka, you would need at least a fortnight, and I had just half of that, so I settled for the West and South of Sri Lanka, which was a good choice for the season too, but I ended up picking the sea and the ocean over the places of historical interests!

In this post, I will show you through the first 3 days of my trip in which we covered Negombo, Colombo and Bentota.

We landed in Colombo on the 1st of January, and headed straight to our stay for the night, in Negombo. Funny thing is that Negombo is closer to the Colombo airport than Colombo city itself. Whaaaaaa? Yeah, that’s right.

I booked an Airbnb property, Oreeka – which, being just 9 kms from the airport, was perfect for a one night stay. We reached there to find a cute little place nestled between a swarm of coconut trees, overlooking a pool and a beautiful garden. It was only until next morning that we got to see how beautiful the place was!

It had a boat in the garden, a boat, yes! And multiple vintage cars, and a great pool, and a big garden and a DJ console and dancing area. It was just perfect!

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Skirt – Street shopping

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Outfit details: Crop top – H&M, headband, shoes and leggings – Zara

We spent the morning lazing around the place, finding out about Negombo and Colombo, chomping down some bacon and sausages. So, the places you should expect to see in Negombo are:

  • The Dutch Canal
  • Negombo Beach (you can find much better and prettier beaches in this country though)
  • Angurukaramulla temple
  • Mary’s church

Having said that, you can totally skip Negombo and head to Colombo directly. You won’t be missing out on much.

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FamSham

On the 2nd, began our actual trip. We moved to a more luxurious resort – Amagi Aria.It is built right by a lagoon which has tastefully done up rooms with bright paintings. My room opened directly to the pool, and the lagoon. It was a mesmerizing view, to say, in the least. The buffet breakfast was exceptionally good, the lunch options not too much. The staff is very helpful, almost going out of the way to help their guests. We dived into the pool the minute we checked into our rooms, to enjoy the sinking sun by the lagoon. We went on with our touristic pursuits in the latter half of the day.

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Dress – Zara, hat – Shein

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The private dock of the Resort we stayed in

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Swimsuit – Pretty Secrets | Myntra

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We visited the following places and you should totally check them off your list too, if you’re in Colombo!

  • Gangaramaya Temple – This one is not only one of the most beautiful but also one of the most iconic Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. It is more than a century since this temple was constructed. The ceilings and walls contain pictures and miniature paintings that explain stories from Buddhism religion. In the main sanctorum, a huge Buddha statue exudes a brilliant sense of calmness in the devotees. Built in a mix of various architectural styles including India, Burmese, Thai and Chinese, this temple also houses a museum.

  • Beira Lake – Close to the Gangaramaya Temple, in the heart of Colombo, is a huge lake – Beira Lake. In the middle of the lake is a small island containing the Simamalaka Shrine, which makes for a beautiful place to just sit, relax and meditate.

  • Galle Face Green – This one is right by the Galle beach, a huge stretch of road for all the nature lovers. Go there for a nice walk post dinner, enjoy the winds from the Indian Ocean and lip-smacking treats from the vendors on the road! This road has all the five star properties and makes for a great sight!

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    Enjoying a light moment with the daddy 🙂

  • Old Dutch Hospital – No, it isn’t a hospital. It houses some of the best sri lankan restaurant, cafes and shops! Go there for a good meal sometime
  • Odel – Odel is the shopping hub of Sri Lanka. Expect some expensive shopping. Do not buy your souvenirs from here. The courtyard right outside Odel is something I loved. Absolute Thalassa feels (for all Goa lovers) amazing food, great ambience and lovely live music!

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  • Pettah Market – This is the street market of Colombo. Do not expect Sarojini and lajpat prices, but you can find yourself some good souvenirs, batik print clothes and also the famous Sri Lankan masks. You can bargain and get yourself a good price here.

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    Haggling with shopkeepers to get me some good discounts!

  • Nelum Pokuna Art street – One of my favorites from the city, this street bang opposite the Viharamadevi Park is full of artists displaying their art on the roadside. Such talent that I was awestruck! Must visit!

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Such a bright tuk tuk! you’ll find millions of these in the country

We also went to the Pettah Floating Market – not at all worth it. Just skip it.

These were just the places that I could manage to squeeze in to my itinerary. You could also visit the National Museum, Mt. Lavinia and Buba Beach, Viharamadevi Park. The Old city Hall and Independence Arcade area are other places tourists visit when in Colombo.

The next day, we traveled to Bentota for a day trip– which is on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, all of 110 kms from our resort, and just 85 kms from Colombo. The beach in Bentota is a fold of pristine gold sands along the mighty Indian Ocean. We spent the entire day till sunset at the bentota beach, monkeying around, making time lapses and sipping on to beer! From the beach, we headed straight to one of the turtle conservation projects. You can find many in this part of the country. They have varieties of turtles and you can even release a turtle into the water. Good for a one-time experience!

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Shorts- Forever 21, Top – H&M, Slip ons – Westside, Hat – Shein

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Slit Skirt worn as tube dress – Global Desi

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At the Turtle Conservation Project in Bentota

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This pretty much summed up my first three days in Sri Lanka!

So here’s a list of some of the things I loved about Sri Lanka:

  • The people – so warm, makes you feel as if you’re in India 😊
  • Egg hoppers!!! Egg hoppers are the Sri Lankan version of egg in the hole, where an egg is cracked open into a paper-thin bowl shaped Dosa and cooked. It’s delicious. Must try!
  • Coconut water – everywhere!
  • Beaches – so pristine – amazing for surfing and scuba diving!
  • Tuk tuks – Sri Lankan version of Indian Autos, except they’re much more vibrant- in bright blues and greens and reds!
  • MANGOES – All year round! Can you beat that?

Things I did not like about the country:

  • Travel is expensive, by road – A six seater or an eight-seater van cost us 6500 LKR for 60 kms
  • The rupee has no value at all – I didn’t understand the pricing there at all. It was absurd. A packet of lays costed 300 LKR, a Dairy milk silk priced at 1050 LKR, and even tampons were priced at an exorbitant 1500 LKR! Very weird
  • Shopping – Sri Lanka wouldn’t exactly be a shopaholic’s paradise. The country is great for its varieties of Tea, and the masks, but other than that you won’t really find anything else!

If any of you plan to visit the country anytime soon, let me know, and I can include the list of must-visit places, eateries and whatever else you guys need to know in the very next blog post!

Hope you guys enjoyed reading 😊

Till the next time then!

-TwofoldChic

Posted in backpackers, Beautiful India, beautifulindia, blackandwhite, blog, blogger, bucketlist, discoverearth, discoverer, exploringtheglobe, Fashion, fashionblogger, fashioninspiration, Food, girlslovetravel, globetrotter, incredibleindia, indianblogger, insidertravel, kerala, ootd, phoi, tourism, tourtheplanet, Travel, travelawesome, travelblogger, travelcommunity, traveldeeper, travelmemoirs, traveltips, traveltribe, tripoto, visualtraveller, wanderlust

Backpacking trip – Kerala – God’s Own Country – Varkala – Day 3

Varkala, our last leg of the Kerala trip, was the most beautiful of all the places in Kerala! Like they say, save the best for the last, that is what we did.

We checked in to the Lost Hostel of Varkala, just a short walk away from the Varkala Beach. The hostel boasts of being an eco-friendly one, with no ACs or geysers or anything that might lead to harmful emissions in the environment. A good initiative, but you know how beach areas get really humid and sticky most months of the year? Yeah, so that was slightly painful.

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What my dorm wall at The Lost Hostels read! 🙂

Anyhow, not being able to take a dip at the Alleppey beach, we were almost restless by now. We walked down to the beach, which is backed by the beautiful Varkala Cliff, brimming with all sorts of restaurants, shops, stalls and massage parlors. It was such a treat to the eyes, and gave me serious Arambol beach vibes!

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Beach view from the cliff – Abhishek

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Beautiful street art found somewhere on the Varkala Cliff – Dhanashri

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Shops with handicrafts

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Clicked by Dhanashri

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PC – Picture Pausto

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Atop the red sandstone cliff are perched plenty of yoga and Ayurvedic centers, and believe me you, this place knows how to chill and will have you unwinding in no time at all. The laidback people, cleaning their shops, skinning their fish, listening to music; the travelers just chilling at the cliff with beers in their hands and bandanas on their heads. We started our expedition with an amazing lunch at Coffee Temple (Read crazy chocolate shakes, drool-worthy pizzas and delectable prawns and rice!)

Once we were done with our lunch, we leisurely walked down to the beach alternating between gasping at the amazing views and shopping here and there. You can find yourself some really cool stuff at these shops btw – apart from the very obvious beachwear and hippy clothes, you can find yourself some Tibetan handicrafts and singing bowls, vibrations of which are known to have brilliant therapeutic effects!

Down at the beach, the long swathe of golden sand with silky blue sea water just swept us away. We walked along the beach to explore more, and as luck would have it, found ourselves at the Black Sand Beach. I have never seen a beach more exquisite! The sand is not grainy, but is soft, and the water, too, wasn’t as salty as you’d find on other beaches. And, most importantly, you couldn’t have found a better spot to watch the golden sun sink into the sea!

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I love how the setting sun has been captured in this picture!

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In my Banjara element

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Captured by – Gaurav

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The beach is great for surfers, as apparently Varkala has one of the curliest waves in all of India, so you’d see an array of people surfing on the waves. There are multiple surf schools too, so if you have 3-4 days’ time, you could learn a tactic here and there! The sea gets a little rocky sometimes, so better be careful during the evenings. But come morning, the sea is amazing for a good swim! I could happily spend weeks sunning myself on the beach, or maybe take one of the millions of different types of yoga classes. This time I focused on just the tanning part, next time it will be toning too, I hope! 😀

We glided along the beach for several hours, went back to our hostel only to freshen up, and we were back at the beach to grab some dinner.

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When the sun was found playng Hide and Seek

Clicked by Jeevan

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Times when everything in the world is a blur, except for me 😀 Thankyou Picture Pausto

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We dined at Darjeeling Café, which had live music and dance, and some lovely Indian food! Post dinner and some hearty laughs shared at the dinner table with some light games, we strolled some more on the cliff and the adjoining helipad area.

Knowing that it was the last night with all these beautiful people that we had met on the trip, none of us wanted to sleep a wink. We all chatted through the night, cooking Pasta and sharing stories.

The next morning, we again headed to the beach, where I swam for not less than 2 hours, some went for the famous Kerala massages, and others left for Photography voyages. The beach was sparkling with bikini clad women and eager men doing yogic poses, people jogging along the sea, barefoot, dogs lazily wagging their tails and surfers climbing and falling off the waves. So much happening all at once, and yet you could feel peace.

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All these beautiful clicks captured by Farooq

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Bird’s View eye of Varkala Black Sand Beach. Captured creatively by TheChromaticEye

This brings an end to my Kerala blog series. I hope you enjoyed reading! For more pictures from the trip, please visit my Instagram

Till the next time then,

Keep traveling,

Keep banjaring!

TwofoldChic

Posted in backpackers, Beautiful India, beautifulindia, blogger, Fashion, fashionblogger, fashioninspiration, girlslovetravel, incredibleindia, indianblogger, kerala, ootd, phoi, tourism, Travel, travelblogger, travelcommunity, travelmemoirs, traveltribe, tripoto, wanderlust

Backpacking trip – Kerala – God’s Own Country – Alleppey – Day 2

After the first night in Kochi ended ( you can read up about that here, if you haven’t already), we got up the next day, with barely 3-4 hours of sleep in our systems, but zeal and vigor only heightened somehow, to munch on some breakfast prepared by Zostel people, only to quickly get on to the bus to Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha by the locals, and Venice of the East by foreigners.

It takes not more than 2 hours by road to reach Alleppey from Kochi, and we all had plans of sleeping through the journey; the way we had danced and partied the night before, it was much needed!

But did we sleep through it? Hah! No! We danced some. And then some more. By the time we got there, we had reached the comfort levels where we were dancing to ‘I am a hunter, you wantaaa see my gunnn’ and ‘Saat Samunder Paar’ songs. And we weren’t exactly what you’d call dignified! 😛

After we got over all our cheap thrills for the morning, we rocketed into our next hostel for the trip – Artpackers!

The place is essentially converted into a hostel from a school, and has super laidback vibes. The rooms are big and airy, and the best part about this hostel was the garden right outside it. There was a beautiful seating arrangement done in the garden, and the windows and trees on the wall attached made for the most gorgeous backdrop ever!

Photo Credits: Gaurav

Remember the gorgeous garden and the backdrop in the hostel I was talking about? I wasn’t exaggerating! Photo Credits: Picture Pausto

Photo Credits: Gaurav

I love this one! Thankyou Virat 🙂

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Did I not mention I was traveling with a bunch of photographers? Guess who got really lucky? 😀 😉

The beach was just a short walk away, and you can only keep the beach away from me for so long, so we freshened up and sprinted our way to the beach, where we were to have our lunch at the famous Catamaran Café.

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How the Alleppey beach looks when the sun is soaring high. Photo Credits: Gaurav yet again!

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Mesmerizing views – Farooq

The beach is always a bad idea on a sunny afternoon, so we decided to just lounge and chill at the café, hog on some seafood, and enjoy the view of the sea!

The café was all Goa vibes. The people, the food, the atmosphere, everything! We had heard so much about the café, that we landed there with super high hopes and drool all over, but honestly, I was a tad disappointed. Our food took longer than an hour to be served!! And it wasn’t even worth the wait.

For all those who plan to go to Alleppey, if you do go to this particular café, go for the view, for the chill vibes, and perhaps the continental food. Prawns and Fish, you can find better elsewhere, I’m sure!

Any which ways, food apart, we had a ball of a time there.

We indulged in some Teen Patti (The Diwali fever just won’t leave me alone *Dramatic EYEROLL*), some Antakshari, and lots of people trying their hand at guitar and producing awful music! 😀

We headed back to our hostel to be greeted by the sweetest host ever who offered to arrange a party of sorts in that beautiful garden of theirs! To top that, he even offered to get us some toddy (the local drink of God’s own country!) along with a buffet dinner. Hungry mongrels that we are, our ears cocked up at the mere mention of Prawns and Toddy!

We wasted no time in small talk, as what was planned ahead was something none of us wanted to miss out on. The Houseboat experience in the backwaters!

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Photo Credits – Rahool

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Captured skillfully by Dhanashri

We had a double decker houseboat booked all to ourselves for some 4 hours, and the timing was such that we could witness the sunset while on the houseboat, in the middle of the backwaters.

No matter how hard I try, I shall not be able to do justice in trying to explain what those few hours on the houseboat felt like. It was like we had attained Nirvana, we had completely lost track of time. The only sound we could hear was the slicing of the smooth water as our boat moved forward. The sun was up, glaring at us, but caressing us with affection, sweeping us in its sweet warmth. The sky was dancing between shades of blue and gold, romancing with the sun and the water both at once, the coconut trees swaying to our merriment, and the farmers rowing their canoes slowly, and gently towards their farms.

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Stuti caught me enjoying my Titanic moment!

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And so did Farooq!

We were all next to each other, but we were all in our own world at the same time, just enjoying the mesmerizing view in front of us, letting the cool winds engulf us, and listening to soft music on the side. Moments like these make you realize what true beauty is, and how important travel is. I was left wondering if the locals of Kerala value this beauty that they live in as much as we do… Or is the grass greener for them on the other side? Did these calm backwaters serve as therapy to them as well? Or was it pure monotony for them? Do they squeal in delight at these awe-inducing sunrises and sunsets everyday as we do?

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Photo Credits – Picture Pausto

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By the best – Farooq

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Captured from a creak in the houseboat by –Dhanashri

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The sky and the water though! – Jeevan

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I captured this, I did, I did! * Pats self*

There is no such thing as too many pictures, especially if it’s of the dynamic hues of the sky. It’s magical!

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There is abundance in this moment, do you agree?

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As these thoughts slowly subsided, our ride came to an end. We were back on land, and back to our hostel, where we were certainly not looking for a peaceful night 😉

This night, ladies and gentlemen, was the best night of the trip!

We played Dumb charades, Truth and Dare, and what not all through the night! We danced, we sang, we ate, we drank… We made lots of memories!

The food was incredible – the spicy baby prawns being my personal favorite!

Amidst all this fun, we didn’t forget to click pictures. Few of the many people who made this trip worthwhile!

The next morning, again after a sleepless night, a few of us woke up real soon, only to enjoy the sunrise at the beach. The sea wasn’t really great for a swim, but it was amazing for an early morning walk, nevertheless!

There are very few things that can match up to the feel of walking barefoot on the seashore, the sun rising alongside, the waves occasionally rocking at your feet, the fisherman out in the sea gearing up for the day ahead, people playing frisbee and Volleyball. There’s something about this time of the day, at the beach, that is just incomparable. The serenity, the tranquility, the peace of mind – it’s just so unusual when you’re living in a concrete jungle.

The beach early morning

We found these surprisingly quiet railway tracks on our way to the sea. Clicked by Gnawmadic

I made sure to savor each and every second of this valuable time! I devoured everything with my eyes, inhaled all of it, because who knows when next I would get to visit Alleppey again.

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Photo Credits – The talented Picture Pausto

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Farooq again!!

And this is how one night in the Venice of East was spent. Next up is Varkala – my favorite of the lot! 😊

I hope you guys continue to read.

Till then, love,

TwofoldChic